Watch Be Sick... It's Free
- 1 hr 38 min
The Italian comedy film Be Sick... It's Free (Original title: "Il medico della mutua") from the year 1968, is a brilliant satire that centers on the Italian national health care system of the time. Directed by Luigi Zampa and starring the celebrated actor Alberto Sordi, the film presents a humorous account of a young and ambitious doctor navigating the complexities and absurdities of a healthcare bureaucracy rife with inefficiency and patient eccentricities.
Alberto Sordi plays the role of Dr. Guido Tersilli, a recently graduated physician eager to establish his career. He initially finds work in a hospital, but soon shifts his attention to private practice as a member of Italy's national health service, known as "la mutua." This membership allows him to treat patients for free, with the government reimbursing him—a system that seems all too ripe for exploitation.
Dr. Tersilli begins by taking over the practice of his ailing mentor, and what follows is a series of events that emphasize the comedic aspects of the 1960s' Italian health care landscape. The character of Dr. Tersilli epitomizes the ambitious, yet often morally flexible, professional whose primary aim is to build a successful practice and take advantage of the system for personal gain.
The film deftly portrays the catch-22 of providing state-funded health care, highlighting the ease with which such systems can be manipulated by both doctors and patients. Dr. Tersilli quickly learns how to work the system, leveraging the bureaucracy and red tape to increase his salary, with little regard for genuine medical ethics or the welfare of his patients. His office becomes flooded with throngs of patients—some genuinely in need of medical assistance, others simply taking advantage of the "free" care without true necessity.
Bice Valori and Sara Franchetti complement the character of Dr. Tersilli with their noteworthy roles in the ensemble cast. They contribute to the vivid depiction of a healthcare system as experienced by its varied users, with their portrayals adding nuance and depth to the social and cultural commentary that the film provides. Bice Valori skillfully brings to life the character of Dr. Tersilli's mother, a woman of traditional values who watches her son's transformation with a mix of worry and maternal indulgence. On the other hand, Sara Franchetti embodies one of the patients, contributing to the tapestry of eccentric characters that complete the tableau of Tersilli's professional world.
Be Sick... It's Free has a rich vein of humor throughout, but it's not without a sharp, satirical bite. It offers a critique of a system where quantity is prioritized over quality, and where the financial incentives in place corrupt the medical calling’s basic tenet—to care for the sick. The film is not merely a whimsical comedy but also an examination of the materialistic urges that compete with the genuine human aspiration to help others.
The visual aesthetics of the movie capture the essence of the late 1960s Italy, with its period-appropriate costuming and set design. It helps create an authentic feel of the era, lending further credence to the story and its characters. As Dr. Tersilli's practice grows, so do the comedic situations he finds himself in; the narrative weaves a pattern of hilarious encounters, misunderstandings, and moral dilemmas, crafting comedy and commentary seamlessly together.
Alberto Sordi’s performance stands out for its nuanced blend of charm, wit, and sleaze, as he brings to life a character that is as endearing as he is exasperating. His engagement with the various patients—each presenting their unique case and comedic element—pushes the story forward, capturing the audience's attention with each frivolous or absurd interaction.
In sum, Be Sick... It's Free is garbed in humor but serves as a serious critique of a healthcare system and the individuals within it. The movie is an entertaining exposition on the foibles of human nature, especially in the context of bureaucracy and public service. Its wit and social commentary hold up a mirror to the challenges of balancing healthcare needs with responsible management, confronting the viewer with questions about morality, ambition, and the true meaning of being a caregiver.
Although the film was released over half a century ago, many of the issues it touches upon remain relevant in discussions about healthcare systems around the world today. Its legacy endures not only because of its humorous take on a serious subject but also because it invites reflection on the governance and ethics of public health services. It stands as a testament to the timeless nature of good storytelling, especially when it serves to illuminate the complexities and sometimes humorous ironies of societal structures.
Be Sick... It's Free is a 1968 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 38 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.1.